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Future Classics, Part 2

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

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Future Classics, Part 2

Bill Crittenden
CarsAndRacingStuff.com
May 19, 2006

Things sure have changed since the 1960's.  I was born in 1980, so I get this information secondhand, but back in the days on Detroit muscle, a lot of people had V8 powered, rear-wheel drive cars.  Having a Camaro or a Mustang wasn't anything particularly special.

Even so, most people drove boring cars, such as the Gremlin or the Volare.  Where are those cars these days?  If you went to the average cruise night or car museum, you might think that the only car that didn't have a V8 were Volkswagens.  Try finding a Slant 6 for a model you're building.  It's not easy.

Jump ahead 30 years.  Nowadays, you don't see so many muscle cars out on the street, whether they be from the 1960's or the 1990's.  The roads are clogged with Camrys and Accords, Cavaliers and Neons, Windstars and Caravans, Suburbans and Explorers.

These are the cars that represent America.  The average car that the average American family drove is more representative of life in these United States than a collection of the most exotic or most expensive cars.

Whether or not these cars belong in a car museum depends on perspective.  Is a museum trying to represent the best examples of automobiles?  Or are they trying to represent cars in general as they were in a certain time period?

So, presented below are examples of the kinds of cars I'd like to put in a museum, and a little something about each car:

  • Buick Century  While sold until well after the turn of the millenium, Centuries have been around for about half of one, and they were the most affordable Buick.  Similar to the Celebrity or the Malibu, depending on year of car.
  • Chevrolet Blazer  Among the most popular SUVs ever sold.
  • Chevrolet Caprice  Popular police car and taxicab.  The Impala SS is more popular with collectors, but the Caprice was the more common car.
  • Chevrolet Cavalier  Compact car still very common on the streets.
  • Chevrolet Celebrity  Chevrolet's family sedan in the 1980's.
  • Chevrolet Corsica  Replacement to the Celebrity, replaced by the Malibu.
  • Chevrolet Malibu  Yet another basic family sedan, this one the current Chevrolet.
  • Chevrolet Metro  3-cylinder 1.0L engine powers (if "power" is an appropriate word for an engine that small) this tiny subcompact with almost hybrid-like mileage.
  • Chevrolet S-10  Compact truck serves as anything from a small work truck to performance vehicle (in Xtreme form).
  • Chevrolet Tracker  Suzuki Grand Vitara-based SUV formerly the Geo Tracker.
  • Dodge Caravan (1984)  First year of a vehicle that created an entire segment of vehicles that endures to this day, as does the Caravan.
  • Dodge Dakota  Dodge's entry into the small truck market was really somewhere between the Ford Ranger/Chevrolet S-10 and a real full-size truck, and so was in a class all its own.
  • Dodge Neon  Helped usher in a new era of styling with its friendly smiling front and round style.
  • Dodge Omni  The classic budget hatchback.
  • Dodge Spirit  The boxy basic car was replaced by the Neon.
  • Dodge Stratus  A staple of the Dodge stable for many years, it has been updated to keep with the times...and Dodge's changing styling.
  • Ford Aspire  Kia-built subcompact one of the smallest cars sold in America in its time.
  • Ford Contour  Filled a spot between the Escort and Taurus for many years.
  • Ford Escort  Popular basic transportation for many years in many forms, from hatchbacks and coupes to sedans and station wagons.
  • Ford Explorer  One of the most popular SUVs when SUVs were popular, until a tire issue deflated sales.
  • Ford F-150  The annual best selling truck in America should have a special place on any museum about the average American vehicle.
  • Ford Festiva  Kia-built subcompact one of the smallest car sold in America in its time.
  • Ford Focus  Replacement to the Escort, also very versatile:  3-door hatchback, 5-door hatchback, station wagon, and sedan.
  • Ford Ranger  The compact truck a staple of many small businesses and people who need a pickup bed but don't want a big truck.
  • Ford Taurus (1986)  First year of one of the most popular American sedans for almost two decades.
  • Ford Tempo  Midsize Ford seemingly gone from today's streets was a common family Ford for many years.
  • Geo Metro  Before GM folded Geo into Chevrolet, this was how the Metro got its start.
  • Geo Tracker  This fun little Suzuki Vitara-based SUV available with a soft top endured for a decade.
  • Honda Accord  Another popular family sedan that tends to go unnoticed, unless you're making a living by selling so many of them.
  • Honda Civic  Versatile compact car that popularized the four-cylinder car as performance machine as well as serving as basic transportation for the masses.
  • Hyundai Accent  Among the least expensive new cars year after year gives it a niche that it very nearly dominates.
  • Hyundai Elantra  Another low-budget Hyundai ride popular for its low price in the segment, and later for its long warranty.
  • Hyundai Excel  This extremely low-budget and mostly low-quality car was one step up from a Yugo.  However, it got Hyundai's foot in the door, and now Hyundai is on the level with Honda and Toyota.
  • Hyundai Sonata  What seems to be a new player in the family car scene has actually been around since the early 1990's.
  • Isuzu Rodeo  Among Japan's best SUVs for many, many years.
  • Kia Sephia (1996)  Two years before the 1998 national rollout of Kia, they were available on the west coast.  What makes this car remarkable is that the body style is different from the 1998 Kia, which makes it very uncommon on these shores.
  • Kia Sportage  This little SUV with the "so 90's" name was cute and affordable.
  • Mazda 323  Tiny little reliable hatchback, still popular for its favorable power-to-weight ratio.
  • Mercury Topaz  Merc's variant of the Tempo.
  • Nissan Sentra  Nissan's version of the ubiquitous compact sedan.
  • Nissan Altima  Early versions of this car set the standard for bland styling, but now are among the most progressively styled cars and have excellent performance.
  • Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera  Known later in its life as simply the Ciera, this car was an affordable Oldsmobile, especially when on the used lot.  In fact, a 1985 CC was my first car.
  • Plymouth Reliant  A variant of the substandard "K Car" that helped save Chrysler.
  • Plymouth Neon  Identical to the Dodge Neon, but from a now-dead marque.
  • Pontiac 6000  Pontiac's version of the Celebrity.  Already quite rare on the street.
  • Pontiac Sunfire  GM's "Excitement" division version of the Cavalier.
  • Toyota Camry  Among the best selling cars year after year for over a decade.  A common sight on the street, if you can notice them with their understated style.
  • Toyota Corolla  Very popular and very reliable basic transportation.  A name that has endured for decades.
  • Toyota Echo  The Hyundai Accent's only real competition in the subcompact category.  Its practicality and price were very popular, but with the wrong people, which prompted the creation of Scion to scare away older buyers from Toyota's subcompacts.
  • Toyota Paseo  Small sporty coupe version of the Tercel.
  • Toyota Tercel  Back before the Echo and Scion, the Tercel was Toyota's smallest and most affordable car.
  • Volkswagen Golf  One of the most affordable examples of German engineering available.
  • Volkswagen Jetta  The family car for so many former Beetle owners.
  • Volkswagen New Beetle  While not an icon for a generation like the original, it still is an enduring car for a new generation.
  • Volkswagen Passat  The family car for so many former Beetle owners who didn't buy a Jetta.

    Some cars are destined to be classics of a sort just because they're some of the oddest cars we've ever seen.  Like the Edsel or the Metropolitan or the Pinto, people save them for their rarity, their oddity, or occasionally because they actually like them.

  • Chevrolet Metro (convertible)  Convertible version of the tiny subcompact with the same 3-cylinder under the small hood.
  • Dodge Omni GLH  A decade ahead of its time, the Omni was the essence of the late 90's tuner car craze, but built in the 1980's.
  • Honda del Sol  The Civic-based two-seater basically a sports car body on an economy car platform.
  • Hyundai Scoupe  Basically a sports coupe version of the Excel, available with a turbocharger.
  • Mitsubishi Mighty Max  A tiny pickup truck with a big attitude (mighty??).  How can you not save that?  It even had the guts to go around calling itself Dodge Ram for a while.
  • Toyota Paseo (1997 convertible)  Toyota redesigned the Paseo for 1997, adding a convertible, then stopped selling it for 1998.
  • Toyota T-100  Toyota's failed first attempt to create a full-size pickup.  It would be years before they would try again with the Tundra.

    ©2006 Bill Crittenden

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